Several people who say they were evicted from a Merced Motel are now homeless and camping out next door. The Gateway Motel is located on 16th Street near V Street.
The City of Merced says half of the units have sub-standard living conditions. The owner of Gateway Motel did not want to speak on camera.
All he could say was he was working with the City to get the necessary repairs done. Meanwhile, the people who living in ten units are now in tents — out in the cold right behind the motel.
For three years — Tabitha Gonzales says she lived at the Gateway Motel, struggling to find work and affordable rent. Gonzales says she tolerated conditions like electrical wiring that could have caused danger, a broken water heater resulting in no hot water for six days and a main light structure that had to be removed after another six days of no power. Gonzales blames the motel owner for all of it.
“He kept taunting us asking us if we want PG&E or we want to be homeless. There’s building structures that’s falling down. Mice, roaches. He don’t care,” said Gonzales.
So Gonzales finally called the City on October 24.
Two days later, code enforcement, a fire inspector and building inspector determined that the motel had major safety issues involving the electrical system, including bare wires and an extension cord running from the fuse box. Resulting in the closure of ten units on the east wing where Gonzales lived.
“Not only was I homeless, ten families became homeless. Ten, not just one. Ten,” said Gonzales.
“For two weeks we had to live like this,” said Chris Lopez.
Lopez is one of those affected, now living in a make-shift tent.
“You know what I’m saying. I’m just trying to like keep warm at night time you know,” said Lopez.
And there are others like him — staying right behind the motel they had to leave. Good Samaritans stop by to drop off food and water but Lopez and the rest are still homeless.
The motel owner — Kaushal Sharma did not want to be interviewed but he says he’s working with the City to get in compliance. Guests staying in the west wing are unaffected but Gonzales is living in her car — homeless for another night.
“This is rock bottom. This is about as bottom as it gets,” said Gonzales.
Here’s a statement from the City:
“To date no inspectors have been called to review any work at the site. The motel is considered temporary, not permanent housing and no housing assistance was offered.”
A permit was issued on October 29 for repairs to be made, including electrical and plumbing.